Letang returns from stroke, Penguins beat Sabres 3-1

Dec 10, 2022, 5:53 AM | Updated: 7:58 pm
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates his goal against the Buffalo Sabres with Marcus ...

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates his goal against the Buffalo Sabres with Marcus Pettersson during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

              Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) returns to the bench after scoring against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
            
              Pittsburgh Penguins' Bryan Rust (17) cannot get a shot past Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
            
              Pittsburgh Penguins' Kris Letang (58) skates during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
            
              Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) is congratulated after scoring against Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
            
              Pittsburgh Penguins' Rickard Rakell (67) returns to the bench after scoring against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
            
              Pittsburgh Penguins' Rickard Rakell (67) celebrates his goal against the Buffalo Sabres with Jake Guentzel (59) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
            
              Pittsburgh Penguins' Bryan Rust (17) attempts to get to the puck with Buffalo Sabres' Mattias Samuelsson (23) defending during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
            
              Pittsburgh Penguins' Bryan Rust (17) works to control the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
            
              Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates his goal against the Buffalo Sabres with Marcus Pettersson during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Kris Letang found another way to surprise Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Crosby scored two goals, Letang returned 12 days after the second stroke of his career and the Penguins defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Saturday night.

“He’s done similar things, but nothing like this,” Crosby said of the veteran defenseman. “He’s looking good for going through what he’s going through.”

Rickard Rakell also scored to help the Penguins win their fifth straight and improve to 12-2-2 in their last 16 games. Casey DeSmith, making his first start in six games, stopped 37 shots as Pittsburgh completed a sweep of the home-and-home series after also winning 4-3 in overtime at Buffalo on Friday night.

Peyton Krebs scored for the Sabres, who lost for the third time in five games. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen finished with 28 saves.

“That first period wasn’t our best,” Krebs said. “It started with some penalties that kind of ruined the flow a little bit.”

Rakell opened the scoring for Pittsburgh with a power-play goal 4:22 into the game. He converted a rebound from the left faceoff dot for his 12th as the Penguins scored with the man advantage in their fifth straight game. Evgeni Malkin continued a five-game point streak with an assist.

Crosby made it 2-0 at 6:51 of the first when he beat Luukkonen with a backhander from the side of the crease. Jake Guentzel extended a seven-game point streak with the primary assist.

Krebs pulled the Sabres within one at 11:00 of the third period. He deflected a point shot from Casey Fitzgerald behind DeSmith for his second of the season.

Crosby put the game away in the final two minutes when he scored on a partial breakaway for his 17th. It capped Crosby’s 165th career three-point game, surpassing Jari Kurri for ninth-most in NHL history.

LETANG RETURNS

Letang, who missed five games, led the Penguins with 22:14 of ice time. He played on the second defensive pairing with P.O. Joseph. Letang didn’t play on the team’s top power-play unit, but he saw time with the second group and committed a third-period holding penalty.

“The timing still needs to get a little bit better, but the legs were there and I felt pretty good out there,” Letang said.

The 35-year-old Letang suffered his second stroke on Nov. 28 after dealing with a series of debilitating headaches. He skated on his own two days after the diagnosis and returned to practice with his teammates 10 days later.

“When I started feeling better, I ramped up the intensity in practice, but there were a couple things to wait on like blood tests and stuff like that to make sure I could go into contact,” Letang said. “Once it was clear, I got the green light.”

Letang missed more than two months in 2014 after his first stroke, which was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. The condition also led to his second stroke, which was described by team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas as “smaller” than the one Letang previously endured.

“Kris has a medical team of doctors that have put him through a litany of tests and these are some of the smartest doctors in the world in their respective fields,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “Kris’s health, first and foremost, is the utmost priority from everybody.”

SHORT-HANDED

The Sabres played without Jeff Skinner, one of their top forwards. He was suspended three games on Saturday following an illegal cross-check to the head of Guentzel on Friday night.

Buffalo also played without defenseman Henri Jokiharju, who was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. Jokiharju, a top-four defenseman, is considered week-to-week.

UP NEXT

Sabres: Host Los Angeles on Tuesday night.

Penguins: Host Dallas on Monday night.

___

AP NHL: www.apnews.com/hub/NHL and www.twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Ancer keeps his distance over Young in Saudi Arabia

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Abraham Ancer had a 6-under 64 to bump his lead to two shots over Cameron Young on Saturday going into the final round of the Saudi International. Ancer and Young, the PGA Tour rookie of the year who had a 65, have separated themselves from the field […]
1 day ago
Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Hurts runs a drill during practice at the NFL football team's training f...
Associated Press

Super Bowl-bound Eagles are built around QB Jalen Hurts

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to draft Jalen Hurts in 2020 came with as much hand-wringing as intrigue regarding how to use the talented Heisman Trophy finalist. The Eagles already had quarterback Carson Wentz locked into a $128 million contract. They certainly had more pressing needs at the time on all sides of […]
1 day ago
Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) drives as Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (11) defends during the f...
Associated Press

Young scores 27 to lead Hawks past Jazz, 115-108

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Trae Young had 27 points and six assists to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 115-108 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night. De’Andre Hunter scored 26 points for the Hawks. Onyeka Okongwu had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Dejounte Murray added 13 points and eight assists. Atlanta […]
1 day ago
Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) shoots a three point basket as Houston Rockets forward Jae...
Associated Press

VanVleet has 32 as Raptors get 117-111 win over Rockets

HOUSTON (AP) — Fred VanVleet scored 32 points, Gary Trent Jr. added 29 and the Toronto Raptors snapped a two-game skid with a 117-111 win over the Houston Rockets on Friday night. The Raptors took a commanding lead in the third quarter and were up by double-digits for most of the fourth. But five straight […]
1 day ago
Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons (1) shoots against Washington Wizards guard Monte Morr...
Associated Press

Blazers rally from 20 down to end Wizards’ win streak

WASHINGTON (AP) — Anfernee Simons scored 20 of his 33 points in the third quarter and the Portland Trail Blazers erased a 20-point deficit, snapping Washington’s six-game winning streak Friday night with a 124-116 victory over the Wizards. Simons made six of Portland’s nine 3-pointers in the third, and the Trail Blazers finally caught and […]
1 day ago
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) is fouled as he drives to the basket against San Antonio...
Associated Press

Embiid’s double-double keys 76ers as Spurs drop 8th straight

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Joel Embiid had 33 points and 10 rebounds and the Philadelphia 76ers beat San Antonio 137-125 on Friday night, sending the scuffling Spurs to their eighth straight loss. Tyrese Maxey had 25 points and James Harden added 16 for Philadelphia, which has the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. “Tonight was […]
1 day ago
Letang returns from stroke, Penguins beat Sabres 3-1